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Carlucci Pushes Bill Protecting Student Privacy

State Senator David Carlucci enlisted PTA leaders and educators to advocate a bill he is co-sponsoring that would offer protection for student data from third-party entities such as inBloom.

They gathered Thursday in the Nyack High School library to students and teachers from two of the AP Government classes and the assembled media to explain their concerns and how the bill S5932 could help address them. 

The legislation would require parental consent for a child's personal data to be shared. Students who are 18 or older would also have to provide consent. The bill would also limit how the data could be used and allow for civil penalties up to $10,000 per violation if it is not used properly. 

The companion bill has already passed the State Assembly and Carlucci said the issue is gaining support that can help it pass the Senate as well. 

"Right now parents across New York State have no authority over their child's private information," Carlucci said. "That's why I am sponsoring this bill to give parents greater control over their child's data. I plan on pushing this legislation in the upcoming legislative session to make sure parents have the right to determine what happens to their child's data.

"I think it is something that is beginning to build that steam. I think the Senate will be able to address this because we have had loud advocates talking about the issues, about why this is important and why it needs to be addressed."

New York State has always gathered student data, but a growing list of parents and educators are opposing the potential addition of personal data such as disciplinary records, disabilities and ethnicity and share it with inBloom, a nonprofit entity funded by the Gates Foundation, which would create an online information portal. Many school districts have withdrawn from the federal Race to the Top program or taken some other official action due to their concerns about student privacy issues. Some, such as the Pearl River and Nyack Public Schools, have also sent letters to inBloom asking that their student data be deleted, but those requests have been refused. 

Nyack Schools were also the location for a recent Day of Action, during which local educators, elected officials, parents, students and community members spoke about their concerns about changes in education in the State of New York.  The sharing of student data by the state with inBloom was one of the focal points during gatherings at all five of Nyack's schools that morning. 

Nyack Teacher's Association President Donna Ramundo, who was representing New York State United Teachers at the press conference, said that there is no need to replace current data collection management methods and asked how they can trust that student data will be protected. She read a disclaimer taken from the inBloom website.

"InBloom Incorporated cannot guarantee the security of the information stored on inBloom or that the information will not be intercepted when it is being transmitted."

Lisa Rudley of the Ossining PTA Council and Co-Founder of NYS Allies for Public Education questioned why New York State Education Commissioner Dr. John King and Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch continue to push ahead despite the concerns raised by so many. She said that of the nine states that entered into contracts to share data with inBloom, eight have either withdrawn or put plans on hold, including Louisiana, Kentucky Delaware, Georgia, Colorado, North Carolina, Massachusetts and Illinois. Only New York is moving forward. 

"Commissioner King and Chancellor Tisch have ignored parents' demands to pull out of the contract, which at this point only leaves us with legal and legislative solutions," Rudley said.

"We've got to make these changes as soon as possible," Carlucci said. "Other states have already opted out. They are ahead of us. New York has to catch up and make sure we are doing the right thing for our students."

Carlucci took questions from the assembled students. When asked what happens to the data after they graduate, he said he did not know, and that was one of the reasons for concern. Another student asked how this issue fits in with concerns that have been raised regarding the implementation of the Common Core learning standards in New York State.

"We’re seeing that there are problems," Carlucci said. "Let’s slow it down, and make sure at the end of the day, what’s the top priority? The top priority s making sure every child in the state of New York gets a stellar education. Common Core was supposed to help that. What we are finding now, we talk to educators in the classroom. We talk to the administrators. They are saying Common Core has its flaws. We’ve got to slow it down and make sure we are implementing it in the most appropriate way and not jamming it down people’s throats."

Nyack Schools Superintendent Dr. James Monteano addressed the students, pointing out that they were seeing how Americans can have a voice in their government.

"Here you have a group of parents, you have a number of educators throughout New York State that are out there looking to protect you, as students, (who) don’t really have a voice in this, yet you are the ones most affected by this," Montesano said. "You see a grassroots effort happening here. You have a government official in Senator Carlucci who is actively listening to what the concerns are and now moving this into a form of change in the governmental process, and it is shaping itself into a bill. The bill will hopefully be forwarded and provide this type of protection.

"You will find very few countries who who have that form of governance where you have the voice of the people have an opportunity to actually shape the society in which you live. "

Click here for video from Thursday's press conference. 

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